“I have English question for you,” a woman whispered over to me at the teachers’ table during lunch on Thursday at Ssangchi Primary. I had never seen her before. I thought, maybe she’s my new co-teacher? My co-teacher wasn’t at school today, and no one had said anything to me about it.
I replied, “Alright! What is it?”
She said that she would ask me later, after lunch. We met up in the teachers’ lounge before any of the other teachers’ arrived, and she said, “What does ‘get drunk’ mean?”
I laughed a little and was thrown back by how unexpected the question was. She said, “Like, ‘don’t get drunk’ and ‘a little’ and ‘you can have a little but don’t get drunk?’”
I told her that it meant that you can drink alcohol, but not too much, and I role-played a wobbly, swaying person. She understood, nodding her head, “Nayyy, nay, nay,” which means ‘yeah’ in Korean.
Something that I love about Korea is that when someone has a question for you, they ask it. A lot of Koreans that I’ve met are also very genuine in conversation. I went to Seoul this weekend and talked to a guy who is half-Korean and half-Californian. He asked me if he could add me on Facebook after we had talked for awhile, so I pulled up my Facebook profile, and he goes, “Wow, that looks like a different person.”
It wasn’t rude and it wasn’t shocking. I did not look similar to my profile picture that night after my full day of teaching morning classes, hiking a mountain, and making the bus trek from Sunchang to Seoul. Oh yeah, I hiked a mountain with my elementary school on Friday (pictured below) and then met up in Itaewon for Khue’s birthday with a big group of other EPIK teachers that I met at orientation. Casual weekend.
Itaewon is a hipster/artsy district within Seoul that has murals (graffiti) everywhere, as well as a ton of bars and Western/worldly-type restaurants. It’s absolutely awesome how eclectic the area is, and the club scene is super fun. The bars are open until 4:00 AM or later (usually later), and I personally love the music. The first bar we went to (Thursday Party) played the Macarena, YMCA, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, and other classic Western pop songs. The whole club was dancing to everything, too. The vibe was so great.
I think a lot of people come to Itaewon to let loose because it’s one of the most liberal areas in South Korea. I was shocked by how many people smoked because that’s generally not very acceptable here. A lot of the guys were very forward and creepy, which is also generally unusual. When Melanie and I were leaving the bar to go home much soberer than everyone else, a young Korean man latched onto her and said, “Let me take care of you.”
I don’t know if those are the only English words he knew because no matter what our responses were, he just kept saying that one sentence and following us. Finally, we lost him, but we started to laugh about his choice of words. ‘Take care of you’ is a lot nicer than the usual ‘sexy’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘take you home’ comments usually heard at bars anywhere else.
We stopped at Quizno’s on the walk back. I felt guilty getting a pizza because, although I had been up for 24-hours straight, it was like my 7th big meal of the day, and it was a very American meal. My excuse for eating whatever and however much I want during my past month in Korea has been that I have to try everything! It’s a pretty solid excuse for everything I’ve eaten, but I really was starting to feel guilty, even though I have been pretty hungry here.
Before I even said anything, Melanie said to Travis, Tori and I, “Are you guys like always hungry? I feel like ever since I got here, I’m just always hungry, and I’ve been eating so much.”
Everyone was like, “OMG, you too?! Thank God! I thought it was just me!”
Times like these make me feel so thankful for the EPIK friends I have to connect with, HA. We bond over much more than just our teaching experiences and living situations. At the end of the weekend, we even talked about getting matching khaki trench coats like a group of Koreans we saw. In Korea, couples and best friends oftentimes wear matching outfits to display their relationship; it’s really cute. I’m serious.
Speaking of clothes, I feel like a hobo compared to most of the Koreans around me everywhere I go. Everyone is so fashion-conscious and trendy. One of the reasons all of us EPIK teachers went to Seoul this weekend was because we got paid, and a lot of us wanted to go shopping. And WOW, did we get paid… you can do your own research if you’re interested how much, but I’m making more than I did at home as a Recruiter/Onsite Manager each month, and I’m not paying for living expenses or most taxes. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
On our way to the central shopping area in Seoul, there was a huge demonstration. It was some kind of Korean national rally. I thought it was interesting that they were carrying American flags among many of the Korean flags. I remembered a story that my mom told me about her trip to Seoul a while back.
An elderly man was so excited to her on the street that he invited her for a meal and told her how much he loved Americans. When he was a little boy during the Korean war, some of the American soldiers would give him chocolate in exchange for doing simple tasks, and he told her it may have saved him from starving to death during harsh times.
That’s also why Spam is still popular as a gift-giving set in Korea. They are still very thankful for all of the help that the Americans gave them during the war. I wish more Americans knew how much admiration and gratitude the Koreans still possess for us because appreciation is a beautiful thing.
Like I’ve said in my posts before, the world is a beautiful place.
If you’re still not sold, check out my pictures below of the Itaewon district and the dog cafe.
Bau House Dog Cafe